226 MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE
VII. LITERARY REVOLUTION
A literary revolution was in fact necessary, and a literary
revolution came in 1917, led by Dr. Hu Shih and Ch'en Tuhsiu,
advocating the use of the spoken language as the literary
medium. There were other revolutions before this. Han Yu in
the T'ang Dynasty had revolted against the euphuistic style
of the fifth and sixth centuries, and advocated the use of a simple
style, bringing it back to a saner literary standard and giving
us a more readable prose. But it was by going back to the early
literature of the Ghou Dynasty. This was still classical in point
of view; it was only trying to imitate the ancients, and it was
not easy. After Han Yii, literary fashions fluctuated between
imitating the Ghou Period and the Ch'in-Han Period, and when
Han Yii himself became sufficiently ancient, the T'ang Period
also became, at different times, a great period itself for
imitation* The Sung people imitated the T'angs, and the
Ming and Ch'ing writers imitated the T'angs and Sungs.
Literary fashions became then a battle of imitations.
Only as late as the end of the sixteenth century did there rise a
man who said that "modern people should write in the modern
language," showing throughout a sound historical perspective.
This was Yuan Chunglang, together with his two brothers.
Yuan dared to incorporate words of ordinary intercourse and
even slang words in his prose, and for a time he obtained
great literary vogue, with a school of followers known as the
Kung-an school (Kung-an being the name of Yiian's district).
It was he, too, who advocated the liberation of prose from
current formal and stylistic conventions. It was he who said
that the way of writing essays was just to take the words down
as they flow from your "wrist," i.e., from your pen. It was he
who advocated a personal, individualistic style, believing that
literature was but the expression of one's personality, hsingling,
which should not be repressed.
But the use of commonplace and slang words was soon
frowned upon by the orthodox court critics, and this author
received nothing except epithets like "frivolity," "inelegance,"
"unorthodoxy," in all histories of literature. Only as late as